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Ketchup Shortage Hits Restaurant Industry


By Brian Hews • April 7, 2021

The pandemic has caused shortages in pet food, pasta, cereal, toilet paper, paper towels, disinfectants, cleaning supplies, appliances, furniture, meat and more.

Now the pandemic supply chain problems are reaching into America’s favorite condiment: Ketchup packets.

Restaurants have had to rely heavily on takeout orders to survive, which amped up demand for the now prized packets

Kraft Heinz Co. is ketchup’s king, with a research firm saying Heinz holds nearly 70% of the U.S. retail market for the condiment. But the more than 150-year-old brand wasn’t prepared for the pandemic.

Ketchup sold in the U.S. is typically made in large domestic factories with tomatoes often grown in the Central Valley of California. Heinz uses varieties of tomatoes it creates as a hybrid of certain types to get the flavor and texture it wants.

Kraft Heinz couldn’t keep up with orders for its sachets––the industry term for ketchup packets.

The ketchup conundrum strikes at a cornerstone of American diets. The tomato spread is the most-consumed table sauce at U.S. restaurants, with around 300,000 tons sold last year.

In the meantime they are saying use cups and put the condiment in there for now; the shortage is only in packets.

There is good news: Kraft Heinz’s is preaching patience; the company plans to open two new manufacturing lines in April, and more after that, increasing production by about 25% for a total of more than 12 billion packets a year.

The company said it also launched a new product last fall – the no-touch dispenser. The dispenser went from “design to pilot” in four months – 75% less time than normal.